The Meaning of Pure White Flowers

garden with basil, mallow and dahlia

In spring, I added leftover wildflower seeds to the planters along with alyssum and dahlia seeds. When I was forced to remove the snapdragons from the front garden bed due to antirrhinum majus rust, the planter flowers were hastily moved into their space. The planter collection included 7 alyssum plants, 5 dahlias, 1 coreopsis and 1 spindly green stem.

I knew the spindly plant had come from the wildflower seed packet as I had grown a similar one the year before that had failed to thrive. I placed it behind the dahlias with low expectations. It has since filled out into a lush, dark green bush 24 inches tall that produces pure white hibiscus-like blooms. When I searched for images of the plants listed on the seed packet, nothing I found matched this plant. When I expanded my search with a description, I finally found a name, lavatera trimestris.

As a student of languages and a plant lover, I wanted the name to have deep meaning. In latin, lavare means to clean and terra is land. Trimestris refers to a period of 3 months. Given current climate issues in the world, I imagined the flower to symbolize a cleansing of the earth in a brief period of time. Instead, I learned that lavatera is named for the Lavater brothers, 17th century botanists from Switzerland.

People, not plants are at the core of planetary problems. While it is urgent to focus on positive change to care for the earth, comprehensive solutions will take effort and time. There are no quick fixes. We can start by planting gardens to grow flowers and produce. We can give spindly plants the chance to flourish. We can allow messages from pure white flowers to awaken us to awareness and action.

lavatera trimestris or annual mallow
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